Fracking threatens California’s water supplies in two ways. It uses massive amounts of water. In California, where oil and gas producers proudly tout the fact that they use “low water” fracking techniques, an average of 140,000 gallons of water are still required to frack a single well. On average, every Coachella Valley resident uses almost 135,000 gallons of water each year — about the same amount of water it takes to frack one well.
Even if you aren’t troubled by these consumption numbers, fracking also threatens water supplies through its polluting byproducts. Just last month, the state admitted to permitting more than 200 fracking fluid injection wells that put federally-protected aquifers at risk of being permanently contaminated, rendering the water unusable for consumption or even agricultural irrigation.
More than 5 million Californians live within one mile of a gas or oil well. While fracking may not take place in the Coachella Valley at this time, the potential impact of this practice on our state’s water supplies should be of concern to all of us.
A large portion of the Coachella Valley’s residential water supply is imported from other parts of the state. The articles you might read regarding lawsuits over the delta smelt and groundwater management in the Central Valley have much more to do with our local water supplies than many of us may realize. If folks in Bakersfield or Los Angeles find themselves unable to use groundwater polluted by fracking byproducts, they are going to clamor for more of our state’s shared water supply — leaving even less to go around for all of us.
California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), which is charged with tracking fracking activity in the state, has fallen down on the job. The regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency commented that “there isn’t any system” to DOGGR’s record keeping at this point. If we don’t know what’s going on, it’s difficult to assess the extent of the risk fracking poses.
Until and unless we can fully understand and control the detrimental impacts of fracking on our precious water supply, the state of California should, at a minimum, place a moratorium on well-stimulation activity. We can’t live without water, but we can live without this additional oil and gas.
Jono Hildner is the Political Chair of the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club and a member of the Executive Committee of Sierra Club California. He can be reached at Jono@Hildner.com.